The U.S. Men’s National Team defeated El Salvador 5-1 in their 2013 Gold Cup quarter-final matchup in Baltimore. The score definitely reflects the results … but it could still be deceiving.
The U.S. started out brightly on both ends as the hustled to every ball defensively and passed the ball brilliantly in the final third to build up attacks. In fact, they opened the scoring in that very way … before losing their concentration.
El Salvador should have equalized but Nick Rimando was awake between the posts to make two clutch saves. He should not have had to make those saves though because the defense pushed up without leaving any reinforcement behind. That was a very lucky break there.
The U.S. let a 2-0 lead drop to 2-1 right before the half as Rodolfo Zelaya lobbed in the cheekiest penalty kick of the year. Damarcus Beasley obstructed him to halt his run into open space to look for a clean shot. As captain, he should have contained him and not given the ref the opportunity to give the easy call.
In the opening stages of the second half, El Salvador began playing attacking soccer and the U.S. simply had no answer. The visitor team blew opportunities after opportunities, and because of that, the home nation regained momentum.
The U.S. scored three unanswered goals and could have had an addition 3-4 easy. 5-1 was the score, but keeper Dagoberto Portillo stood on his head to make a bunch of late saves.
Landon Donovan scored and dished out an assist to help push his team to the well-deserved victory. After a long sabbatical, the 31-year-old hasn’t missed a step as his influential play is still very much intact. He is truly the brightest spot on this team. He may finally get recalled to the A team and deservedly so.
However, one player in continuous form will not get the job done. Sure, everyone had a solid game overall, but a lack of concentration for an extended period of time will cause problems and perhaps cost the game in the semi-finals or if they advance as far as the finals. On paper though, the U.S. are favorites to win it all … but as we all know, the game is played on grass, not paper.